On Thursday 16 March, for the fourth consecutive year, volunteers from Sopra Steria participated in Internet Safe & Fun, a campaign by Child Focus to encourage children to use digital resources safely and responsibly. Okke Boonen, who as Employer Branding Officer at Sopra Steria Benelux is also responsible for a number of Corporate Responsibility projects, managed to enthuse 19 colleagues for this latest edition. “That’s five more than last year”, she smiles with satisfaction.
Not only did you help organise the awareness campaign on the side of Sopra Steria, but you also took part in it yourself for the second time. What exactly did your participation consist of this year?
“On this particular Internet Safe & Fun day, I went with a colleague to her nephew's primary school to give two one-hour workshops: one in the fifth and one in the sixth grade. That is the age group of 10- to 12-year-olds. At that age, children really start to experiment with social media and the internet. Hence the idea of Child Focus to target this vulnerable target group with this specific campaign.”
What actually happens during such a workshop?
“We use four posters to discuss four different situations. Each situation is also linked to a digital platform or social medium. For example, we address the issue of sexting via Snapchat, while we address the problem of cyberbullying via Instagram. We use TikTok to talk about protecting your privacy and Fortnite to discuss how to interact online with people you don't know. We let the pupils evaluate in groups the different situations on the printed posters. They can indicate in green what goes well in each situation and in red what goes wrong. Then we discuss the results with the whole class. The intention is that we leave enough time for the pupils to tell their own stories and share their personal experiences. We as volunteers are mainly there to guide them through that discussion process.”
Giving such a workshop also requires some preparation, I suppose?
“Yes, but not as much as you might suppose. To begin with, everything is organized through Child Focus. They also guide the participants during the preparation phase. For example, they provide a basic online training that every volunteer must follow. In it they go over the content of the workshop. Child Focus also provides all the educational material, as well as the letters you can send to the school and parents to introduce yourself as a volunteer and explain the campaign. You can propose a school yourself, but you can also simply choose one from a list that Child Focus has drawn up.”
Who are the volunteers participating in this? Is it a specific, well-defined profile?
“On the contrary: they are a very diverse group. Among our volunteers, you will find a good balance between male and female, Dutch-speaking and French-speaking, young and older employees. Also, to be able to give the workshop, it is not necessary to have experience with online platforms such as TikTok and Snapchat. Most young people are already familiar with these anyway, so you no longer need to introduce them, nor explain their use in great detail. What actually matters is the situation you illustrate with each platform. In other words, it is not our intention to explain the technology itself, but to create an attitude and behaviour change through awareness raising. The workshop is only really successful if we can make children more aware of the importance of privacy, for example. Or of the fact that in the digital world, just like in the normal world outside, you can come into contact with people with bad intentions. And that they also learn how to deal with those situations.”
What do you yourself take away from this experience?
“What I personally find most interesting about the Internet Safe & Fun project is that the pupils get information from someone who is not their mom or dad, nor their teacher. This time it is not the usual authority figure, but an unknown, unbiased outsider who comes to give them some good advice. What I mainly take away from this initiative is that children today live in a completely different world than the one I grew up in, even though I am in fact only in my twenties. And although some children were more willing to share their experiences with us than others, they all seemed to know quite well what they were talking about.”
Our collaboration with Child Focus fits into our community engagement, which is one of the four strategic pillars or dimensions of Sopra Steria’s sustainability commitment. Through that community engagement, we contribute to the social and digital inclusion of vulnerable groups. Read more about our different community engagement projects in our next blog post.